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Orlando, Beyond the Theme Parks Part I

Updated on July 1, 2017

Area photos

Island Time Thornton Park
Island Time Thornton Park
Zou Zou Chic Boutique
Zou Zou Chic Boutique
Lake Eola
Lake Eola

Downtown Orlando-Lake Eola

Orlando is home to the United States best theme parks. Many visitors miss out on the Orlando that lies just outside the theme parks. This 3 article series to introduce you to different places in the Orlando area, a short drive from the theme parks. If you need a break and want to experience Orlando without mouse ears; check out some of these suggestions in this series.

Downtown Orlando-Lake Eola

A short drive east on I-4 into downtown, you will find a secluded setting for relaxation in the heart of the city. The downtown area offers historic neighborhoods, boutiques, parks, and delightful restaurants. Visiting downtown is best done on Sundays as parking is more accessible on the weekends. Sunday 10:00am to 4:00pm, visit the Farmers Market on Lake Eola. Enjoy the live music and good food from the vendors at the Farmers Market. No mouse ears here, all the wares for sale are quality, handmade goods. You will find an eclectic collection of items, everything from handmade jewelry to organic dog cookies; a fantastic place to buy a memorable souvenir from your vacation. The atmosphere is friendly with views of Lake Eola that make it worth the trip. Take a stroll around Lake Eola and rent one of the swan boats and go for a spin around the lake. Kids can burn off some energy at the playground in the park while you relax and enjoy this oasis in the city.

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Downtown Orlando-Thornton Park

Downtown-Thornton Park

East of Lake Eola, on the corner of Central and Summerlin streets, you will find Thornton Park. This gem in the city is a neighborhood, boasting oak-shaded bungalows flanking the colorful commercial district. Encompassing Washington Street, Summerlin Avenue and Central Boulevard, Thornton Park has a European feel. Restaurants offer al fresco dining and distinctive boutiques make this area a perfect afternoon escape from theme parks. Visit Dexter's of Thornton Park, the favorite restaurants among locals. Sip your favorite wine or brew at Island Time. Take a stroll around the neighborhoods, and visit one of the trendy boutiques, such as local favorite, Zou-Zou. If a massage or spa treatment is just what you need to decompress after the theme parks, check in at the Spa at Thornton Park, with a large selection of treatments, you will find your Zen again. Ranked one of the best "Old House" neighborhoods in 2010, this is a place not to miss.

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